Do We Still Need Braille?

My mother and I sitting with a braille notetaker between us.

It’s a question that’s been debated more and more as the years go by. Each January is Braille literacy month, and each year I hear arguments advocating its decline. Each time, I shake my head and ask myself again how people can be so… Pardon me, Blind!

Technology has risen to the forefront of everyday life around the world, putting screen reading and voice dictation capabilities in to devices no bigger than the palm of ones hand. It’s fantastic and all, but nothing compares to the value of the written word. Spelling and punctuation are mostly lost in translation when I hear information being read to me via computer or otherwise. It’s practically impossible to keep information straight without typing notes and rereading text, so imagine studying for a test when all you can do is listen and re-listen to the teacher or your book?
If you think you’d get by in a world of audio only, try and picture this. Your in a math class, and the teacher writes on the board:
These types of equations are all over any algebra book, but would be virtually impossible to work out without being easily able to look back at the numbers and punctuation. Although one could slowly move through it and hear each symbol individually, it’s a lot to keep track of when hearing it piece by piece and a lot more complicated to solve without seeing it as a whole problem.

Image of me standing holding my phone, displaying a webpage containing a local train schedule.


If that’s not convincing enough, try reading a table such as the one above with audio only. While there are of course techniques and tricks to make this doable, graphs, tables and other data heavy documents are just so much easier to understand when laid out in front of you. No one wants to have to memorize and picture what’s where, and really, no one can do that all the time.

Personally, I still use Braille all the time. I label folders in my desk, and boxes in the kitchen. It helps me proofread these posts and other writings I am part of at work. Braille even allows me to type on my phone, with the help of a built-in braille keyboard. For others, braille signs help find room numbers, and can be a vital communication method for people who are deaf-blind.

Audio could never replace print, so why should it replace braille? In a world in which words are still an important part of day to day life, blind children around the world would be at a huge disadvantage without the advancement of braille in their lives. This method of writing may be over 200 years old, but it is the best language developed to put reading and writing in the hands of blind people worldwide. WE are smarter, faster and better for it, so let’s take away this notion that braille can be eliminated and bring literacy back to the students of the future.

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  1. Good point here, all of them. Dang it all, reminds me, I ought to be getting back into reading Braille. Need to go grab a book on UEB, too; a text from today probably looks different than what I learned fifteen years ago.

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